As the Dutch title indicates, this series chronicles magnificently the life of William I "the Silent" of Orange, who grew up with his Lutheran family in the princely castle of a minor ...
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As the Dutch title indicates, this series chronicles magnificently the life of William I "the Silent" of Orange, who grew up with his Lutheran family in the princely castle of a minor German countship of Nassau at Dillingen, till at eleven he inherited the vast riches of the prince of Orange (in southern France, with major possessions in the Low Countries), and was sent to the Holy Roman emperor Charles V's sister Margareth's gubernatorial court in Brussels to receive a Catholic education. He soon became a Habsburg confident and high councilor, a gifted diplomat and military officer. However when the persecution of the Protestants -and some other measures- arouses great resistance with the people and many nobles, it gets ever harder to remain loyal to the crown for the Lutheran at heart, who ends up leading the opposition once Charles' heir, king Philip II of Spain, ceases all negotiations and tries to impose his absolute rule by military force, which however only succeeds in ... Written by
The costume department differentiated between characters from different countries by dressing all Dutch characters in earthy colors such as green, brown and orange, the Spanish in black and the Germans in red. See more »
Willem van der Mark, Admiraal Lumey:
In the name of Orange, open the gate!
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1984 was the 400th anniversary of the death of Willem van Oranje (or William of Orange as Elizabeth I called him), 'father' of the Netherlands from whom the Royal family is descended and in accordance the entire year was hailed as the 'Year of Orange'. As part of this celebration, a massive mini-series was produced starring our own Jeroen Krabbé as Willem de Zwijger and co-starring just about every serious Dutch actor working at the time, as well as a host of Belgian thespians. You see, the series was such a costly affair that a single Omroep couldn't fathom the costs, so AVRO & Veronica television teamed up with the Belgian BRT to create this 10 part extravaganza.
Director Walter van der Kamp, no stranger to long-winded mini-series (having directed "De Stille Kracht" and "Hollands Glorie" in the seventies) also provided the screenplay which unfortunately reads like a history book. Nearly every line uttered is exposition. If people aren't talking about historic events, they are explaining how they are related to one another or telling each other how long it's been since they last met. The series covers the entire life of the Prince of Orange, beginning with a brief look at his murder, before going back to his childhood and working chronologically from there on. Jeroen Krabbe's son Jasper portrays young Willem for a couple of scenes before his dad takes over, playing the part from an 18 year old till his death at 51 (though he is made up to look older, but I guess people aged faster in those days). His three wives and 13 children are all present and accounted for, the eldest being played by another one Jeroen's boys, Martijn Krabbé, before he became a TV presenter.
At the time there were protests from supporters of the house of Orange who disapproved of seeing the greatest Orange of all portrayed as a man who loved to party and drink (in his youth at least). Looking at back at the series now it is hard to believe they made such a fuss, for Willem is practically presented as a saint, always respectful of his enemies, merciful to those who do him wrong and (in later years) constantly accompanied by his dog Koense. It is a testimony to Jeroen Krabbés charisma (as well as his soothing voice) that he manages to carry the entire series playing such a noble character, for everybody knows that playing the villain is much more interesting. Indeed, Willem Nijholt chews the scenery with great relish playing Filips II, ruler of Spain and Willem's greatest adversary.
As was to be expected on a period piece such as this, the costumes and scenery are exquisite. The costume traveled all over Europe to acquire (or hire) up to 3000 different costumes. There could never have been a budget big enough to film all the ground and sea battles fought between the armies of Orange vs the Spaniards. We are after all talking about the Tachtigjarige Oorlog (80 years of war) here. So most of these are only talked about by characters after they have happened. On some occasions glimpses of the aftermath are shown. All of this is accompanied by a very dramatic score composed by Tony Eyck, who unfortunately didn't come up with a memorable main theme, but did find imaginative ways to incorporate the Dutch anthem 'Wilhelmus'. Of course the Wilhelmus only pops up in the series when it becomes historically justified, i.e. after it was written by Orange's trusted friend Marnix (played here by Bram van der Vlugt).
Despite the aforementioned information heavy script, it is still very difficult to keep up with all the different characters that are introduced only to kick the bucket a few scenes later. This is especially true of the 2005 DVD version, which for some reason has been reedited and shortened a great deal. Instead of 10 episodes, the DVD features 5 installments each running around 1 hour and 25 minutes. In this new version, a lot of scenes are edited extremely tightly. Settings switch from one country to another without giving characters a chance to catch their breath. You sometimes get the feeling people are getting cut off in the middle of a speech. It's unlikely that the series will get another, more complete DVD release in the near future. Hopefully we won't have to wait until the 500th anniversary of Orange's death...
8 out of 10
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